The 2nd Golden Boy Blogathon
Without William Holden, the romantic drama Breezy (1973) may have been as light as its title implies. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film stars Holden as Frank Harmon, a cynic who falls for a free spirit less than half his age. Until then, he’d been a cad who slept with women with no intention of ever seeing them again.
Kay Lenz plays Edith Alice “Breezy” Breezerman, a guitar toting hitch hiker. Stuck in the Hollywood Hills after a close call, she spots Frank and cons a ride into town. He’s a successful real estate agent and drives a boat-like sedan. He’s from the older generation, probably fought in a war or two, and makes no secret of his contempt for her kind.
Along the way, Breezy sees an injured dog by the side of the road. Frank doesn’t want to stop. When they do stop, the dog appears dead. Frank is in a rush and wants to move on. His insensitivity angers her and she takes off without her guitar.
It’s a good set up for the story about two people with opposite ways of looking at the world. Frank’s every defeat is etched in his face. Breezy is, well, breezy, a sunny eternal optimist. When they eventually meet again, she begins to chip away at his shell. Is change possible for him and is there any way to reconcile such vast differences?
Kay Lenz is endearing but, at times, seems “too good to be true.” However, the character is right for the era. Lenz strikes a balance, conveying a range of emotions.
Written by Jo Heims, the movie emphasizes the generational conflict at every turn. Frank is part of the country club set while Breezy makes the scene around Laurel Canyon. Her best friend is Marcy, a spaced out flower child, played by Jamie Smith-Jackson [All the President’s Men (1976)}. Smith-Jackson made her debut in Go Ask Alice (1973), a harrowing TV movie about a teenage runaway. In Breezy, she shows her comedic side. The rest of the supporting cast is also excellent.
Eastwood regular Frank Stanley was the cinematographer. Michel Legrand composed the score that’s more cocktail jazz than rock but features a folk rock ballad by Shelby Flint over the title credits. In The Acidemic Journal of Film and Media, Erich Kuersten compares Eastwood to the French auteur Eric Rohmer:
Rohmer wouldn’t break his Bazin-influenced naturalism by playing a ’70s soul-folk ballad over a beach at dawn holding hands montage … as Eastwood does in Breezy (1973) but the potency would be the same. It would be ‘real’ in a way that makes you weak at the knees, even sitting down. But where angels fear to tread, Eastwood just advances more slowly and inexorably, like a mongoose on a cobra. … You can tell by how fine and deeply it sits in your gut that it’s not just groupthink treacle. There’s a world of difference between manipulation–trying to make an audience feel some emotion–and the art of pleasing oneself. What makes Eastwood or Rohmer swoon? No one needs to ask such a thing, for we have their films.
Of course, it would’ve been a much different movie had Eastwood taken on the role of Frank Harmon, himself. The cultural difference would have been there, Dirty Harry meets Joni Mitchell, but the generational one wouldn’t have been as keen. As is, Holden and Lenz make the unlikely pairing convincing. There are plenty of awkward moments, but by the end, we’re rooting for them.
Thanks to Virginie and The Wonderful World of Cinema for hosting another round of The Golden Boy Blogathon. To view all the entries, click on the image below.